And I’m sure I’m guilty of, at minimum, passing on things communicated in this formula. Because one of its serious advantages, for those using it, is that it’s the sort of thing that sticks in people’s minds and that they want to pass on But I’ve finally recognized that I see a…
I’m not actually sure we disagree, because I agree with everything you just said.
I agree that oppressive dynamics are present in pretty much all situations.
I agree that naming something doesn’t create it.
I agree that there’s no such thing as the kind of neutral situation you think I’m trying to describe.
And I agree that being part of an oppressed group doesn’t generally, in most situations, give you an advantage in any way.
In fact I think I was pretty clear about most of those things in my post.
What I’m saying, is that within communities where people do care a lot about ending oppression, I’ve seen this turned into a manipulative weapon rather than a means of describing an actual situation. And even when it does describe an actual situation, it can sometimes be so potent that it takes on a life of its own and takes over how everyone views things for a long time afterwards.
And I’m also saying that I’ve taken part in this at all possible levels, and I’m just starting to recognize why it’s a good idea to think before you frame a situation in this manner, or pass on information that’s been framed in such a manner. Because I’ve seen it spiral out of control in really destructive ways that don’t help end oppression in any way and may actually hinder such efforts.
So I’m not quite sure where we disagree. At least, I agree with pretty much everything you said there. Maybe we disagree on where to draw the line, or whether it can ever be destructive to frame situations in this way, but I don’t disagree at all with most of what you’ve said there.
Like… there’s a thing where people who are socialized as male interrupt and talk over people more often than people who are socialized as female, and especially talk over anyone who is presumed female. And there’s a thing where people without communication disabilities interrupt and talk over people with communication disabilities.
And there’s also a thing where autistic people interrupt people because we’re not good at figuring out conversational timing.
So an autistic man interrupts me, and I immediately say not “You just interrupted me,” but “You just interrupted an autistic person with a significant communication impairment.”
No matter what he says from then on, people who are aware of oppression are going to see it partial the way I framed it. And anything he says to defend himself will look like an excuse. And he may eventually, in extreme instances, get a reputation as that guy who interrupts people with communication impairments, even if he interrupted me once and everyone just remembers vaguely what I said about him doing it.
And like… that doesn’t seem entirely fair to me. Maybe it does seem fair to you, and maybe that’s where we disagree.
I also think there are times when it’s absolutely fair, and just, and right, to use this formula. I just think you really have to think about it first, you can’t just spit it out every time something happens that’s unpleasant. Maybe we disagree there, too.
But I suspect where we disagree, if anywhere, is a matter of degree, a matter of where to draw a line, possibly a matter of whether to draw a line. Because you’ve said nothing that I fundamentally disagree with overall, in fact I strongly agree with the vast majority of what you’ve said.
(But that happens to me a lot, and I’m never sure what to make of it. I say something, someone says “I disagree with that,” then they proceed to say a long string of things I completely agree with.)
I don’t think that naming oppression creates the oppression, by the way. And I don’t think naming oppression is wrong when it’s happening, although I do think you have to always think about it even in situations where you’re pretty sure it’s happening. I just think it’s important to think, rather than reflexively throw your oppressed identity into a discussion.
And if you’re not just doing it reflexively, if you are thinking about it first, and if you are not doing it in a manipulative way, then I’m probably not talking about you. I just know it can be done reflexively (I know because I’ve done it), it can be done in place of thinking about the situation, and it can have consequences that aren’t expected and go beyond what’s reasonable. And I feel bad about having passed on information I learned in that way, without getting to know the situation first.
I think I kind of see what you mean, actually. I run into a lot of problems because people use words to mean different things a lot of the time. Too many words have been turned into dog whistles, and then other people just sort of blunder in and make a mess, and then other people start yelling, and then no one is communicating at all, much less effectively.
Maybe my perspective on the matter is greatly affected by the constant, massive double standard I see every day on who gets the benefit of the doubt always, and who gets the benefit of the doubt never. Stereotypes about certain ‘kinds’ of people being too angry, over-emotional, illogical, et cet. Race, gender, ability status, are all part of that.
I think what’s “fair” for one person isn’t the same “fair” for another person. It reminds me of a situation that came up when I was running a gaming/social support group for autistics and people with social anxiety, and someone had a negative behavior that needed to be addressed. And I was like, “this person needs this explained to them in blunt language.” And someone else was like, “why do you always make exceptions for this person/isn’t it insulting or condescending to treat them differently?”
And I was like, “Uh, no. I treat everyone the same-as individuals with different needs. So by treating everyone differently based on who they are, I’m being fair.”
I mean, i think we can agree that thinking before you start talking is like, #1 important communication priority, or it should be.
Adding your identity onto/presenting it in an interaction as a factor, because context, I think is important. Yes, you’re absolutely changing the way other people see that interaction by doing that.
What I get from what you’re saying is that it’s unfair to color other’s perception of a situation before they have a chance to understand it fully. My disagreement would be that power dynamics are an essential part of understanding a situation fully. If other people choose to have knee-jerk reactions to identity without thinking on it further than that, then that’s their prerogative. I do not think that it is manipulative or that it obscures the situation. Sometimes, it’s honestly the ONLY relevant part of the conversation.
Because there’s this double standard that exists, that only SOME people are allowed to be wrong, to be given second chances. Only SOME people are allowed to be human, and make human mistakes. The fact that there are people out there who, no matter what they actually DO, are demonized, harassed, and targeted for abuse, and they defend themselves with whatever they might have at their disposal…there needs to be room for that.
I know this because of people I have loved more than my own heart who have lashed out at me, have done things they should not have done, things that were unfair and morally wrong, because they were so unbelievably broken from things they have been through, because of who they are.
Making room for that and learning to move toward forgiveness, making up for things, and growing as people, is something i think there is room for. Expecting to enforce your own ideas about fairness in an unjust world can be turned into a form of violence. Expecting perfect behavior from people who’ve lived through unspeakable abuse is, in my opinion, violent. Expecting the same standard of behavior from someone who’s ignorant and doesn’t really give a crap, as someone who’s barely keeping their head above water every day, expecting them to adhere to the same rules of ‘acceptable behavior’, that’s not okay.
Because double standards exist going one way in dominant culture because of oppression, having a double standard the other way as an anti-oppression practice creates a better balance than a blanket set of ‘rules’ that are supposed to apply to ‘everyone, equally’.
I know you’ve had experiences with people who use the whole, “I’m suffering the most, so everything needs to be for and about me!!!!” as a tactic for all kinds of abuse. So do I. Really immediate and personally uncomfortable experiences.
Maybe the disagreement does just come down to where we draw the line, because we’ve both had similar experiences, and very different experiences in life. I mean, we as two individuals. But I think we can both agree that those who under constant threat of violence are the most entitled to use whatever weapons they have at their disposal, in the tiniest microcosm of this little corner of the internet, in which you might call your clan out to come to your aid, and listen to you speak.
And yeah, in a world where “crazy” is a synonym for “no one has to listen or hear”, that CAN be powerful. And I’d rather see people who are systematically disenfranchised find some scrap of any kind of power they can find, even if it means some people are just out there using that shit to play manipulative games. But sometimes it’s about saving a person’s personhood, saving a life, saving someone’s…sense of self.
TL;DR it’s perfectly possible to judge every situation individually in its own context because people are individuals and there’s plenty of room for all of us in the universe.